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Traverse Area Girls Rugby program thrives on inclusivity

TRAVERSE CITY--The Traverse Bay Blues Girls Rugby program thrives on its mission of inclusivity.

“They get to step out of their roles. And I think some become leaders that you wouldn’t expect. And I think because we need every body shape, I think everybody can be represented. So, some girls that have never been able to find a sport, because they’re too big, or too strong… This is a team sport that they can play for 60 minutes, and they can still partake and find their strength,” head coach Tânia Santos said.

“Anybody can play, there’s a position for every body type, every skill set. And it’s also like, there’s a lot of camaraderie in the sport, which I really enjoy,” team captain Amelia Ackerson said.


The Blues are made up of girls from over six different schools across Northern Michigan. Many of the players are dual-sport athletes, which is encouraged by the club.

“You have to work together with girls from different schools and different backgrounds, and I think that that is not always the case in the other school sports that they do,” the HC said.

In the program’s 15-plus years of operation, their girls have earned multiple NCAA Division I and Division II scholarships for rugby.

”It has a great potential for scholarships, which I think is really, really important for the girls, it’s just another avenue of a sport that is not yet saturated, which makes a huge difference, because most of the other American sports are really very competitive. And from smaller schools, especially in northern Michigan, it’s harder to stand out,” Santos said. “I think I’ve seen girls also, you know, get scholarships from backgrounds where they would never be able to afford even a college education. So, I think that’s important. But that’s not the only thing I’ve seen. And I think I’ve seen them just develop friendships that are lifelong.”


The team is still working on building its numbers as it rebounds from its break due to COVID-19.

“There was a die down and now we’re building it back up again. So, we’ve been together for a good three years at this point,” Santos said.

“This is our first year we’re going to have full numbers and a sub, which we’re so excited about. Before, we had to borrow other teams’ players,” Ackerson said.

“For us it’s so huge to finally have someone for every position,” sophomore wing Bridget Kohler said.


The Traverse-area team also offers a middle school program to get student-athletes involved in the sport earlier.

“The earlier they understand the rules of the game, and the earlier they understand contact, the easier it is to roll into high school rugby,” Santos said.

The Blues will take on their first game September 10th against Sparta-Rock.

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